GOVERNMENT officers after retirement take to sanyas, but some courageous ones have spoken against the intolerant society that India is becoming. In their open letter they say, “It appears there is a growing religious intolerance that is aimed primarily at Muslims.” Apparently, there has been no discussion or mention about the sentiments of this letter. The BJP which sets the tone of society probably did not want any discussion and let the matter die as it has. Yet, the fact remains that the Muslims do not get their due. They are 17 crores or 12 per cent out of India’s total population of 1.2 billion. As Justice Rajinder Sachar’s report has pointed out, the treatment meted out to them was worse than what the Dalits go through.
The report is a decade old but none of its recommendations has ever been implemented, not even under the Congress. What it means is that a soft kind of Hindutva had spread into the country even before the BJP came to power. One expected the Congress Party to take up the point made by Justice Sachar. I understand that he even went to the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) at the time to complain that if the government was not serious about implementing its recommendations, why did it waste his time and the time of other members of the Commission?
Manmohan Singh at the time expressed his helplessness. He reportedly told Justice Sachar the bureaucracy seemed to have come in the way and what was promised to the Muslims remained only on paper. The report had hardly any adherent when the BJP came to power. The Muslims, once in a while, do recall the report to underline their grievances, but the media has shown no interest. Even otherwise the media has come to tilt towards Hindutva. The voice of pluralism is hardly audible. Things have come to such a pass that those who talk about pluralism are looked down upon and considered pro-Muslim for some personal gain. BJP philosophy has come to prevail. Congress Party which draws its connection with those who struggled for independence and its ethos of one country for all without distinction of caste or creed is not credible any more.
The dynasty rules the party and does not give space to anybody else. Even the Working Committee of the party, which used to be in the news, does not exist. One has never heard of the AICC, or the party President’s elections. In an effort to let her son, Rahul, be an arbiter, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has seen to it that there would be no dissenting voice. Senior members of the party openly express their disappointment that new and fresh voices are not entertained by Mrs Gandhi because she is keeping the seat warm exclusively for Rahul. He is so much the apple of her eye that even daughter Priyanka—she goes down better with masses—has been pushed into the background.
Priyanka’s most powerful selling point is that she resembles her grandmother, Indira Gandhi. Never mind that Indira had many negative points. For example, the excesses committed during the Emergency when one lakh people were detained without trial. The Shah Commission, which held open sittings to bring out how the common man was maltreated, said in its report that the Emergency was imposed because Indira wanted to save her seat after Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha disqualified her for six years. Instead of honouring the judgment she changed the whole system of governance. Subsequently, she allowed her younger son, Sanjay, to effectively rule the country with the support of his red necks. Back in those days there were also a handful of serving and retired civil servants who dared to defy authoritative governance and suffered the punishment meted out to them for having shown courage during the Emergency. Indira was very particular that those who challenged her are sidelined. The government of Narendra Modi is not about promoting one man and his idiosyncrasies. It is more about ideology, the Hindutva. That makes it much more ominous. One person can always be removed but ideas are harder to dislodge. That is the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. In the first, it is one person who tries to change the people. In the other, it is people who change top rulers.
Unfortunately, today it is Hindutva versus pluralism. Despotism of one person has been replaced by the despotism of ideology. This can be seen in the way a 15-year-old Muslim, Junaid, was stabbed to death on his way back from a shopping spree to celebrate Eid. Those responsible for his killing first abused him on account of his religion. What is tragic is that those who struggled for independent India do not count and the ones who were never near the frontlines are ruling the country. Where were the Hinutvas voices when Nehru, Gandhi and Maluana Azad were caned by the people in solar hats?
There are some liberal voices who recall the independence movement and Mahatma Gandhi who led it, but the ruling party’s emphasis is on their philosophy which was looked down upon in a pluralistic country for which the nation was fighting. It is tragic to see that the civil servants themselves are wearing badge of Hindutva. In UP, where BJP has come to power, CM Adiyanath Yogi has transferred 26 top secretaries to the government to make way for the people he considers nearer to his party’s philosophy.
This is different from the centre where the Prime Minister has reportedly seen to it that those secretaries who fail to do their jobs are given due warning. Modi is considered by the civil service to be a ruler who means business. So far there is very little evidence that Modi can rise above ideology. He still has two more years to go in his five-year tenure. Maybe, he would now take some hard decisions to put the country before the party.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.